James MacDonald’s Latent Fundamentalism, Perry Noble, and Stuff Worthy of a Mini-Rant

If you don’t know anything about James MacDonald’s defense of Perry Noble’s alleged lie you are clearly not in the same tiny tempestuous teacup. Here’s the reductionistic scoop. Noble explained to MacDonald his choice of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” He basically said that he doesn’t do things just to provoke Christian sensibilities. Somebody with too much time found a youtube clip where Noble explains his choice of the same piece of trash by basically saying he wants to “piss off the religious.” I quote, obviously. It seems to most reasonable people that there is a discrepancy of such proportions that one could actually be justified in wondering if Perry Noble lied. James MacDonald, who once said that he’s a fundamentalist just not mad about it, apparently has not lost the fundamentalist affinity for exclamation points, capital letters, and man-of-God  pontifications. He responded with a strongly worded blog post entitled, “Perry Noble Didn’t Lie!!!” Anybody who has fundamentalist roots knows instinctively that three exclamation marks should shut down all opposition. But, alas!

Actually, I like James MacDonald and since I minister in his shadow it behooves me to say nice things about him lest I get squashed like a boiled peanut in a room full of elephants, a simile that really makes little sense to me except that MacDonald’s farm includes an Elephant Room and I’ve heard elephants like peanuts, albeit not boiled. Anyway, at this point I couldn’t care less if Perry Noble lied or didn’t lie. Nor do I mind that MacDonald wanted to promote a more charitable analysis of Perry Noble’s alleged lie. I’m cool with charity.

The point that compelled me to opine as commenter #96 (?) was ridiculously overused arguments in defense of Noble’s strategy to “tick” off the religious with overtly irreligious behavior. So ho-hum. Cliché. Intellectually juvenile. The elephant in the room that needs to be discussed is lousy critical thinking.

For now I’ll just post the comment as I left it on James’ blog without the necessary modest emendations.

I don’t mind defending a guy or at least trying to stem the tide of rash judgments that are made about a person even if the guy is a whacko. I appreciate it and admire this part of what you did, James.

What I don’t get is the very traditional (irony alert) use of Jesus infuriating the Pharisees as a justification for ***ing off religious people. That defense is so overused it bores me. The fact of the matter is, it’s apples and oranges. Jesus did, in fact, offend religious people. But he did it with righteousness. Light offends darkness. Purity scandalizes demons. And there were also a great deal of religious pharisees that actually did come to Jesus, not offended, because they knew he not only was a teacher from God but that he kept the law (i.e. Nicodemus).

Even when Jesus ate with the Publicans and sinners (a passage American evangelicals love to use in defense of their worldliness), the record is clear that those around the table with him were already followers of Jesus. The discussion was all about Him. The theme was Jesus. The conversation was Jesus. He wasn’t hanging out with them cracking lewd jokes and conjuring up ways to **** the Pharisees.

Paul, the Apostle, did not want to unnecessarily offend the Pharisees. In Romans 10 he commends them for their zeal even though he is sad that they are ignorant of the righteousness of Jesus. In Acts his conscience seems to have been bothered by the fact that he stirred up a controversy between the Pharisees and Sadducees. He deliberately made efforts to avoid scandalizing the “religious” unnecessarily. On the occasions when he did, it was to make a very solid Gospel message and it was not the usage of anything that is objectively of the flesh. “The works of the flesh are manifest (obvious)”, he said, and if there is occasion when he upset the Pharisees it was on something obviously not of the flesh.

It takes a great deal of charitable blindness to think that Perry’s song choice is not manifestly “of the flesh” since per Paul’s list, the song promotes everything that is manifestly ‘of the flesh.’ Clearly, you do not defend his song choice, but you cannot be irritated by commenters who charge you for defending Perry’s song choice when you equate his desire to anger the religious to the heart of Jesus. He could have shown a pornographic video clip and that would have angered them as well.

The brutal reality is that a person cannot claim to have the heart of Jesus “agains the religious” while not also having the heart of Jesus for the irreligious. The whole NT shows what Jesus thinks about the kind of song Perry listens to. How can someone with the heart of Jesus even work out to that? And if a person can ignore the heart of Jesus listening to the trivialization of hell in music (a subject that grieved Jesus), is it not reasonable that people question if he has the heart of Jesus toward the religious?

Certainly you must be able to understand what I’m trying to say.

Finally, I’m religious. The anti-religious fervor of American evangelicals is another boring cliche. Religion simply means to believe in the supernatural and answer to a higher being. That defines me. And you. And we want pure and undefiled religion.

Pharisaical religion would get offended by Perry’s antics. Pure and undefiled religion would as well. To judge all religious people and their grievances the same is too simplistic even for American evangelicals. Or should be.

I appreciate most of what you say and do, James. I really do.

A devoutly religious brother.

Pat Robertson Should’ve Asked King Jesus

In the providence of God my Matthew series was just about ready to land on Matthew 19, the text that speaks of divorce. I chose to use Pat Robertson’s news splash as an introduction to my exposition of Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees on this very topic: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for, say, alzheimer’s? I preached it yesterday.

I tried to frame our thinking of it within the framework that was an actual reality for the Pharisees and disciples: they were talking with the King of kings and Lord of lords about the matter! I think there are four results consequently:

  1. Humble discussion with the King on any topic tunes our hearts to love His purposes.
  2. Humble discussion with the King on any topic prevents our minds from finding refuge in wrong thinking.
  3. Humble discussion with the King on any topic convicts us of the error of our ways.
  4. Humble discussion with the King on any topic empowers us to receive His word on the matter because He gives grace to the humble.
Thus, in Matthew 19:1-12 I think there are four obvious points from King Jesus on the topic of divorce that can be discerned without haggling over etymology and various views of divorce. The Gospel-preaching King makes the following obvious:
  • The Gospel of the King tunes our hearts to desire and love the original intent of the Creator for His creation. In this case, marriage.
  • The Gospel of the King prevents us from proof-texting with Scripture or circumstantiating exceptions in order to justify our selfish desires.
  • The Gospel of the King convicts us of the exceeding sinfulness of sexual immorality (and, thus, in my my mind, one reason why the exception clause is there).
  • The Gospel of the King empowers His disciples to embrace the hard calling of marriage or celibacy with devotion and purity for the sake of the Kingdom.
You can hear the message here and download the notes as well.

Why Leaders Must Dismiss the Criticisms of “They” & Why You Shouldn’t Quote “They”

The ubiquitous authority of “they” is the bane of every pastor and leader. “They say” are the two words that are expected to give force to the soon-to-follow argument or criticism. And, unfortunately, it is the habit of sincere church members (the transmitters) to employ the “they say” argument without any real consideration of its negative impact. Continue reading

Grace is not Exceptionism

My daughter and I had a theological discussion this morning. Granted, she did not start the conversation expecting it to turn into a Thursday morning sermon from Dad, but she’s experienced enough in our relationship to know that is always a high risk. It struck me that she thinks of grace as “getting an exception” versus, well, grace. She’s the most empathizing ten-year-old in the world and she’s always feeling sorry for somebody, even if the punk is likely to be the first to snub her. So, today she vented her displeasure at the harshness of the teacher’s rule that backpacks in the classroom when the bell rings constitute tardiness. Apparently, one student is always just a little bit tardy because of a host of reasons beyond his control and my daughter thinks it’s unjust that an exception is not made for him.

Now, clearly a fifth-grader’s tardiness is usually the fault of other human beings in his life. I get that. Perhaps my daughter subconsciously knows that when she’s late it’s really her parents’ fault. I don’t know. Therefore, from a fifth-grade perspective her call for an exception seems not only magnanimous, but reasonable. However, giving her tardy classmate an exception would be, in fact, unjust. The rule applies to everyone.

The reality of the matter is that grace is impossible to give in his case. The teacher can be gracious, yes, but she cannot really show grace in the purest form.This is because grace requires a substitution. And this is why too many evangelicals do not understand grace. They think grace is “getting an exception” from the Teacher Most High. But getting an exception results in more self-love and aggrandizement. If the tardy fifth-grader gets an exception he thinks he’s exceptional. He might be inclined to say, “I shall continue in sin that grace may abound.” If, however, real penalties are applied to a real substitute fifth-grader he might be a lot more inclined to feel indebtedness to the substitute and a gratitude-driven ambition to be on time.

My daughter doesn’t want grace because when I ask her if she would like to assume the penalties of tardiness on behalf of her friend she flatly refuses. Ah! So, she doesn’t want justice; she wants an exception. That’s not grace. But grace is exceptional because it is just.

God did not make an exception for me. He made a substitution, took the penalty, and met justice’s demands. For me. That’s grace. I don’t feel exceptional. I feel graced.

I’m not sure my daughter understood my morning sermon. We had to cut it short as we rushed into the school building to beat the bell. The thought occurred to me that I should appeal to her teacher to give us an exception because we had been discussing profound gospel truths in the parking lot. Then I realized that I was not much smarter than a fifth-grader.



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